China: UN committee demands respect for human rights activists and end to reprisals

28.05.2014

A UN human rights committee has called on China to end repression against human rights activists and lawyers and to investigate and ensure accountability for reprisals against human rights defenders.

(Geneva) - Responding to a submission by the International Service for Human Rights, a UN human rights committee has called on China to end repression against human rights activists and lawyers and to investigate and ensure accountability for reprisals against human rights defenders.

The body of experts recently completed its review of China's compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In its 'Concluding Observations', the committee expressed serious concern about 'instances where labour and human rights activists, and their lawyers, have been victims of repression and reprisals while taking up cases of violations of economic, social and cultural rights'.

Responding to such cases, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights said that China is obliged under international law 'to protect human rights and labour activists, as well as their lawyers, against any form of intimidation, threat and retaliation'.

The Committee also said that China has a legal obligation to 'guarantee that human rights and labour activists, as well as their lawyers, have adequate access to health care in all circumstances' and called on authorities 'to ensure that all allegations of reprisals and abuse are promptly and thoroughly investigated, and that perpetrators are brought to justice.'

The Committee's recommendations came after ISHR briefed the treaty body experts on the case of Chinese human rights defender, Cao Shunli, who died in detention after being denied access to adequate health care, in violation of article 12 of the ICESCR. Ms Cao had been detained by authorities en route to Geneva, where she was to participate in an ISHR training course and advocate at the UN in relation to China's human rights record.

In its briefings to the UN, ISHR urged the Committee to rigorously follow up on this case. 'You should request that the Chinese government ensure the full and independent investigation of this case, and further demand that they provide an adequate remedy to the family of Ms Cao,' said ISHR's Michael Ineichen at the time.

In its briefing, ISHR also expressed concern at ongoing intimidation and reprisals against other human rights defenders, saying, 'The Chinese Government again restricted human rights defenders from travelling to Geneva to attend this session, a pattern which is widespread. We call on the Committee to recommend that the government immediately cease its harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, and that it guarantee the right of everyone to safely access and communicate with international bodies, such as this Committee. Further, we request that the Committee remain vigilant about reprisals, and that it recommend that the Government investigate all cases of alleged reprisals, and hold perpetrators to account.'

Welcoming the Committee's comprehensive Concluding Observations, ISHR said that it is now imperative that China implement the recommendations promptly, fully and in good faith.

'China frequently touts the progress it has made in the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. While recognising some positive developments in this regard, the Committee's report makes clear that there remains a significant gap between the human rights rhetoric of Chinese officials and the human rights reality for people on the ground. Respecting the work of human rights defenders and protecting them from reprisals would go a long way towards bridging this gap,' Mr Ineichen said.

Contact: Michael Ineichen, ISHR Director of Human Rights Council Advocacy, on m.ineichen@ishr.ch or +41 78 827 77 86

Category:

Region
  • Asia
Topic
  • Human rights defenders
  • Reprisals and intimidation
Mechanism
  • Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
Country
  • China